Flight games on
consoles are sometimes Air Crash Investigation worthy because
trying to crack that elusive PC simulator market is easier said
than done. Generally, the graphics are there but when they
attempt to add realism into the mix, things become a little
shaky at the best of times. Thankfully, UBISOFT has once again
erred on the side of caution as H.A.W.X. 2 is more grounded in
the arcade world as opposed to those complicated PC simulators.
Add in 32 different and realistic planes and it's easy to get
drawn into the story of H.A.W.X. 2.
Set in the not
so distance future, H.A.W.X. 2 is firmly located in the Tom Clancy universe
of Ghost Recon Future Soldier that sees the world on the verge
of war and this is where the gamer is thrown into the shoes of
maverick pilot as they fly the skies in an attempt for ground
forces to recover stolen nukes. Oozing with Tom Clancy
references, it's actually quite fun to fly around in this
universe as opposed to sneaking around military bases and
attempting to thwart terrorists organisations and splinter
cells. Another twist to the story is that you actually play
three different campaigns that include the US, Russian and the
British with some fun cutscenes thrown in for fun.
As you fly
through the skies of many countries such as the Persian Gulf and
Russia, your job is to prevent the
unthinkable from happening which generally involves blowing lots
of things up. However the first thing that I noticed about
this new H.A.W.X. title were the controls. On the XBox 360
controller, everything feels just right and whether you're
attempting to do a loop, spiralling away from missiles or
targeting that elusive enemy, the developers have really fine
tuned the controls and made it quite enjoyable at the same time.
The only thing a little tricky is landing on a carrier and on
more than one occasion, I landed in the deep end of the ocean.
At it's gaming
nexus, H.A.W.X. 2 follows the standard air combat game formula
as you follow your waypoints to victory, engage in a variety of
sometimes vertigo inspired dogfights, escort other vehicles and use state of
the art technology in order to find your foes who are hiding
like rats. The key to the gameplay is the ERS (enhanced reality
system) which makes the game more arcade than simulator and
consider it like the formula one games with auto braking and
handling around corners. It's something that is needed for
console flight games that makes it relatively easy to pick up
and start playing. I was also surprised at how
interactive the environment was as you watch the ant-like people
and vehicles either benefit from your interference or attempt to
blow you down from the skies just like the Hollywood big budget
action movies. For me, nothing is more satisfying than flying
low to the ground and taking out a large number of enemy tanks.
Depending on your skill level, the
AI in H.A.W.X. 2 can be quite frustrating at times, especially
when you're trying to zone your target onto them to launch your
missiles and just like human pilots, they can do all those crazy
Top Gun manoeuvres just like you and shoot those flares to get
out of tight squeezes. Your wingmen are a bit of a hit and
miss affair and at the end of the day, it's generally up to the
player to dispatch all the enemies as they usually just fly
around and look busy. Hmm... I should try that technique at work
next time! If you do get blown out of the sky, the game uses a
checkpoint system to assist you through the missions that works
on most occasions.
For those that
want eye candy, you've come to the right place with H.A.W.X. 2
that boasts exceptionally well designed jets to some highly detailed environments from realistic clouds, weather,
lighting and some good looking terrains. In terms of terrains
and like most flight simulators, it looks spectacular from the
sky but when you get a little too close, it goes a little too
flat for more liking but one day, we'll see a real forest
populated by individual trees. Thankfully most of the action
takes place up in the skies. Add in realistic sound effects,
chatter, explosions plus the awesome soundtrack and H.A.W.X. 2
is a very good looking and sounding game on the XBox 360.
However, if you need a
break or have finished the single-player game, H.A.W.X. 2 boasts
a fun 4 player campaign co-op or 8-player slugfest. Finding
other players was quite easy and we only suffered slowdown on a
few occasions but I'm guessing this was part of my internet
connection as opposed to the game itself. Now that Labour has
won victory in the Australian parliament, bring on the National
Broadband Network for superior online gaming.
Final Thoughts? If you're a fan of
the original, you'll be over the moon with the sequel which
contains a sturdy gaming engine, albeit easy at times but
overall, the story, action and sheer speed of you flying through
the air will keep most gamers entertained. Consider it the Top
Gun "arcade" flight game for the console world and also has the
eye candy to match as you engage in dogfight after dogfight.
Fun times to be
had by all.